We are all afraid of something. Our progress from childhood could be measured by the fears we outgrow, only to have others take their place. Fear of authority, fear of social gaffes, of rivals in business or the emotions ; fears for our children, our security . . . anything will serve so long as we have the attitude of fear.
This is called the age of anxiety. But were the old fears of famine and plague, of the Inquisition, of Hell, of constant civil wars, any less dreadful than the present day fears of atom bombs or even total annihilation ? We cannot fear more for a million lives than for one, if that one be close at hand. The mind that is stupified and deadened by the enormity of numbers can be greatly moved by the misery of one small child. It is not what we fear that matters, but the very fact that we do fear. Emerson says, “ If I quake, what matters it what I quake at ? ”
It is no use looking outwards to find the sources of fear. The tendency is within us, and we have to find its root cause, not a label to fix to it. Why do we fear the loss of our possessions, our respectability, our relations or our lives ? They are an extension of our egoity, and if we lose them we are robbed of the things that our ego has laboriously collected and built up for its sustenance. So we find that as desire is constantly feeding the ego, so desire is at the root of our fears.
This is where Yoga helps us to clarify the matter and put the ego in perspective. For it teaches that our real Self is not the ego, but is God or Truth, and that the ego is a superimposition on that Truth ; an impostor, a masquerader. No wonder that it feels insecure and in need of boosting itself with vanities and possessions. It is insecure. It is in a false position—trying to arrogate to itself the title of master when it should take the part of a servant. The more we feed this ego, the more fears we shall have, for there will be more to fear losing. Desirelessness alone can reverse this fecund spiral of desire, possession and fear, and desirelessness is one of the rudiments of the Yogic life.
Mahatma Gandhi wrote : “ Without fearlessness one cannot obtain other virtues. . . . Fear is merely our imagination. If we withdraw our sense of attachment from wealth, relatives, the body—-then we are free from all fears ”.
This is a counsel of perfection and few are capable of such greatness at the beginning of the Path, but if we can keep before our minds the thought that our inner Self is the one Supreme Lord, and the ego an impostor, of what is there to be afraid ? Fear is a defence of the ego against supposedly hostile surroundings. If the Inner Self is the same in all beings, the fear is in our imagination, as Gandhi says. By trying to deepen the thought of desirelessness and of the actuality of the Universal Self in all men, we begin to find the truth of the Gita verse. . . .
“ There is no loss of effort here, there is no harm.
Even a little of this devotion delivers one from great fear.”